Running asynchronous standups with Zapier and Asana

Written by Matt Drozdzynski

Matt Drozdzynski’s photo

Running asynchronous standups with Zapier and Asana

Staying in-sync with a distributed team is not easy. When your company spans many time zones, traditional management techniques often stop working.

Most managers think they need their entire team under one roof to effectively manage it. They’re missing out on many great hires, but that’s the price they’re willing to pay to keep their team productive.

Some decide to give remote work a try, but quickly footnote it with ‘as long as you’re within X hours of our headquarters.’ I’ve been spending more time in the Bay Area recently, so we had to learn to work with a 10-hour time difference. First thing we had to do away with was our daily standup call.

Note: We recently replaced Trello with Asana as our system of record for all tasks across all teams. This helped us create more accountability and transparency into what everyone is working on.

Running standups in Asana

Instead of our daily call, we start a conversation in Asana where every team member describes what they are working on. It’s not too different from what we’d discuss in our call, but it can be updated at any time.

Everyone tries to update it first thing in the morning in their local time zone. As a manager, I review all standups daily, provide feedback or recognition (with ♥️), and try to remove any blockers that the team reports to me.

Why not Slack?

We decided against using Slack bots for our standups for two reasons:

  1. Messages on Slack easily get lost, so if you’re spread across multiple time zones you might miss your reminder.
  2. There is no easy way to retrieve past updates in case we need to refer to them later on.

Automating it with Zapier

Instead of relying on one of the team members to start a new conversation every day, we automated it with Zapier.

You can start conversations in Asana from your email by sending posts to team-name@mail.asana.com.

We created a zap which sends an email to each team’s mail-in address at 8am UTC:

This way we don’t have to worry about someone forgetting to start the standup thread. 💪

The takeway: This simple practice helped us keep in-sync despite a significant time difference. And it’s a great opportunity to reflect on our work for more than 5 minutes you’d typically get in a regular standup meeting.

If your team is doing anything to automate or eliminate common project management practices, I’d love to hear from you.